Aishwarya and a million other dark girls named after her must all be returning to Fairness, or so the Lux ads are exhorting .

Why does Aishwarya need to return to fairness. She is fair to start with, isn’t that why the million dark babies are named after her.

 We live in a country with such great colour prejudice and hypocrisy to boot. We keep thinking that apartheid is there across the water in deepest dark Africa, but ask any Sudanese or Ethiopian student here what they suffer at the hands of us Indians as dark or maybe one shade lighter. We are awful. Don’t go as far as Ethiopia because that is a continent and world away. Ask any dark woman or person here what they experience and how much more dowry they would have to shell out to attract a male.

Examine the product. Lux is telling you the consumer of soaps and opera that this new soap has sunscreen built in. So what do you do once Ash suckers you in to buying her endorsed brand? Walk around with the lather and soap all over you in the sun to benefit from its sunblock components. It is entirely baffling how the sunblock in the soap can affect you, maybe you the consumer of fairness needs a few answers for a change.

 

Take this a step further, it is a known fact that lighter skins are more prone to skin cancer, melanin and melanoma not withstanding. So if you are dark you have ‘sunblock’ kind of built into your skin, the wondrous evolution and nature programmed you right.  Take the Lux exhortation. It is saying, hello dark is not good, return to fairness (presuming wrongly that you were fair to start with), now with our soap you will become like Aishwarya (who is not returning to fairness since she is fair already), and then to add insult to injury they are saying implicitly that you will become more prone to skin cancer since you are fair now and our sunblock rubbish will protect you. Come on guys give us a break. When will advertising agents start to tell the truth and stop sucking up to clients to use all their skill to sell some product we don’t need.

Simultaneously, serendipitously Benzer is showing a black man, ebony on the beach, the sun in mercilessly baring down on him and the copy is indicating that the forecast is sunny and the Outlook black in Benzer is cool. 

Palmolive show a beautiful dusky, honey coloured backless, bikiniless woman in the sun on the beach, the ad could fool you into thinking it promotes Mauritius or the Seychelles.

 While it may be true that 95 % of women polled think that fair is more beautiful, where do these attitudes come from? There is mythological basis but in a more convincing and contemporary way, the films, the media influence, with the stereotypes. It’s about time we looked at our attitudes with Nietschian hammers.

Photographically the Lux ads have been shot badly, Aishwarya is wearing the same bustier she wore last millennium, she is looking tired, like all the hype and Salman are getting to her. Palmolive is super and Benzer is Rafeeq.

Its time we the consumer demanded some fairness.

It is an onerous task to review the work of a fellow photographer and when it is Praful Patel of the Piramal Gallery the task becomes more acute. However Prafulbhai as he is affectionately known may have inadvertently provided an answer with his cover collage of cows, holy and otherwise.

 

Here goes:

 

The first impression when thumbing through this modest book is that it is non pretentious which is high praise in a world of wannabes and plastic reality. It is actually quite a simple book and is one man’s journey through photography, from glassplate to digital is its subtitle. Though digital might be a little misleading. Prafulbhai has seen a lot almost encapsulating and condensing Indian history from Independence till today. Some of the images have impact for sheer documentary value.

The opening page with flag raising man can beg the question who is raising whom. The layout of the two photographs on this page is amusing however the layout throughout the book is crowded where more is more. Pictures bleed one into the other making a nightmare visually, if you are looking for a calm-snuggle-into-your-favourite-wicker-chair-bourbon-evening, to recount a Journey, forget it. There is an onslaught of black without relief not one pin head of white  space where the retina can tarry and recharge its rods and cones. You feel you are in Bhuleshwar during mahashivratri each image with pointy elbows is jostling and competing for space and attention, all sans serif text is in reverse white. You could be in a disco. Somehow you get the feeling that this is far away from what Prafulbhai actually intended.

 

On the subject of bleed, everysingle (sic) image haemorrhages but on page 56 and 57 there is synergy in the transfusion, Marine Drive becomes the Gateway, form and function and content merge serendipitously. The double spread effortlessly takes you from eye level to aerial in one fell swoop, where the total is greater than the sum of its components. This seamlessness tries hard on other pages too with varying degrees of luck. Page 172 and 173 makes a statement on ‘concrete jungle’.

 

 

There are several photographs that should have been edited out, a case in point is photo of Parul on page 68 and all the images of Mitter Bedi notwithstanding the dedication to him on the opening pages. Personal is one thing public domain is another. It is practically impossible for photographers to themselves become their own picture editors. Every photo is precious through the viewfinder, each one loaded with ‘the moment’. It is imperative to bring in an objective pair of scissors.

 

Photo on page 119, Village girl student near a board with barakhadi  is perhaps the most beautiful in the book. The look on the girl’s face as she peers into the preceding page is a fabulous comment on where women are going. This is a strong and gripping image if diluted by layout.

 

Where there is so much fear about the book publishing business having lost out to TV and periodicals and being threatened by the Internet Prafulbhai congratulations on Just Doing It.

Sikh and ye shall find.

October 26, 2012

Raghu Rai is a photographer of international importance who derives all his nourishment from the land that raised him. From his days at India Today and those remarkable, unforgettable black and white photo features that helped propel IT into the serious content magazine category, his fame is legendary now.

 

His latest book ‘The Sikhs’ along with the redoubtable Kushwant Singh is fresh off the Lustre Press. Roli Books make an impressive large square format documentary on the lions of Punjab.

 

The text has been written authoritatively and with the very readable, simple style that makes Kushwant Singh the icon that he is. It is very clear that the subject is part of KS’s (not to be mistaken for Kamasutra, he writes because a condom for the pen has not been invented yet) blue blood cells. Kushwant Singh weaves his narrative over the history of the Sikhs interlocking its spiritual ideology with the religious rubric. The politics of the Punjab, the dynastic clashes, the fall of the kingdom, the role the Sikhs played during British rule, the Nationalist movement, the Akalis, The Temple and Operation Blue Star. Through reading the text (and its un putdownable) you somehow get to know the author more and how much he loves and admires the people and the land that give him an identity and a voice. He tries to be objective but is any objectivity ever possible? One of the most endearing qualities of Kushwant Singh is his ability to laugh at one and all. There is no malice in the man despite his columns’s claim. There are typically some Sardarji jokes too in the book.

 

But this is largely a Picture Book in gleaming colour fabulously produced, with a clean layout. By any standard it is a beautiful book however, Raghu Rai has to be judged on a standard that he himself sets up and by that exalted benchmark the book falls very short. Raghu Rai has this genius quality of the elements of foreground, background and midground coming together in an almost advertising set up. When you see a Raghu Rai you cant help but be messmerised at how this trained dog and trained cow and trained crow and trained people and sculpted sky and etched tree all come together co ordinated and preordained in the middle of the nowhere.  Or from within the chaos of Chandini Chowk, a pattern, a shape, a form, a canvas emerges. He does this with such uncanny regularity that you would think that he travels with a caravan size prop box and trained extras who pop up like cutouts in the desert. His unique sense of composition leaves you not getting the ‘whole in one’. You need to come back often, mull, savor, get pieces of it till finally the synapses in your head go click and it falls mysteriously in place like a cyberslot machine. The greatest quality of a Raghu Rai is its ability to make you part of the creative process rather than presenting you with a beautiful picture that leaves no doubt as to its origins and destination, a fait accompli. A picture that you ‘get’ at once does not need to be revisited. Raghu Rai’s images have a shadowy, mysterious quality but here he visits his own work like a ghost, appearing sometimes and walking out of his mind at others. The work looks too similar to Rahgubir Singh’s, most of it shot as a observer rather than a participant. Yes if you are a sikh you will definitely want to own this book, but if you are looking to see a Raghu Rai then the book hangs tenuously and it momentarily seems like the plastic credit card is heavier than the considerable book, should you commit the Rs 1975 or not, that act of indecision is where the book loses out. There are books out there that leave no doubt that even if you have to rob your grandmother to own it then shut your eyes and your qualms do it and sit down gently later to explain, and buy your ticket to visit Benares and do Ganga snan too.

The photos on page 43, 51, 54, 75, 77, 80, 81, 83, 84, 92,105 and 115 are purely redoubtable RR and truly marvellous. Some of them do look staged but what the heck, it seems natural and within context. The others are there and have documentary significance, the gaping hole in the golden temple after operation Blue Star is a glaring example, the rest of the images are cold and seem to look a bit tired. The text talks of the diaspora but where are the sikh cabbies and truck drivers? They seem to be on strike. Where is the Sikh Regiment? And the sikhs all over the subcontinent and beyond? Where is Bangra, bangra rap, and hello where is Daler Mehndi and Jaspal Bhatti? Oh they are in the cabs and trucks that are on strike and stranded.

 

Raghu Rai’s style is inimitable though a couple of young photographers try hard, they if they don’t watch out will always be a facsimile. There can be only one Raghu Rai as there is only one Kushwant Singh, but there are many sikhs and thankfully this is not the definitive volume, so take heart. The Sikhs don’t give up their secrets all that easily, maybe they are more democratic in sharing their mystique and wealth than artists and photographers are.

 

 

There is a lesson and a huge one somewhere, Sikhism is a direct reaction against the Hindu caste system, it does occur that if one exchanges  this oppressive social structure for a more egalitarian one or reorganise it to be contemporary then the people of that belief system inherit the earth and the wealth it provides. There are no Sikh beggars, chew on that Yaswant Sinha and Lal Kishan Advani.

Not too many people nor indeed photographers in India have heard of Joel Peter Witkin, but he is celebrated in certain circles in the west for his controversial images.

His eponymous catalogue titled simply Witkin is a treasure , it coincides with a huge retrospective on at the Guggenheim museum NY. 

When you look at a Joel Peter Witkin image you are overcome by its technical uniqueness, especially these days when its all instantaneous and digital, Witkin is peerless when it comes to creating a Daguerrotype style image. It is said that he dips his negatives in coffee and then scratches them with a finger nail, makes his own prints, coats them in beeswax, warms and then burnishes them.

 

Whether what Witkin does is art or not will forever be debated, depending on your own sensibilities and aversions of things ‘grotesque’, weird, or ghoulish. In the same tradition of Arbus, Witkin thrives on  transsexuals, or people with deformities. Many of his images are distortions or alternative views of classical paintings and have mythological undertones. While Leonardo’s visits to the morgues might have resulted in anatomically perfect figures, Witkins visits to the morgues in New Mexico results more in a meat shop placement of amputated heads, limbs there by design that challenge notions of beauty and ugliness.

 

Witkin says of his own work that they are spiritual, each like prayers.

I’ve received Bone House recently and shall add  a much large commentary when I’ve formulated some thoughts on this wonderful book.

http://www.zonezero.com/exposiciones/fotografos/witkin/jpwdefault.html

In ‘Secret Knowledge’ David Hockney proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Caravaggio and other sixteenth century painters used optical devices to draw spherical objects, perspective and detail, it is also ancient history that with the birth of photography many painters found themselves on shaky territory and either adapted or perished. In India today as in the west it is common practice that painters will use photographs or photographic processes in their work. But not much of reverse osmosis is seen among Indian photography. While the notion of purist can redoubtably be challenged, has Indian photography allowed itself to be influenced by other art forms? It might be appropriate to take an overview of contemporary photography and see how it jostles for space in an increasingly segmented market.

 

More people have access to a camera than ever before especially with camera phones and the sheer choice available.

 

As India was coming out of a socialistic, protective economy to a more liberal capitalistic one, and to make it in the high income bracket as a photographer you had primarily to be an advertising photographer, rich kids were scrambling over each other to get to Brooks in Santa Barbara. Advertising photography was also stratified with fashion being top dog and industrial photography weighing in at the bottom. While any renowned, international, photojournalist would give their seeing eye to come to India. Local photojournalists were sort of looked down upon by the advertising frat and the twain rarely met. If you were a ‘portraitist’ in the west, that would in itself be considered a title. An Annie Leibowitz is sought after and is booked years in advance to have your portrait made. Today in India if you are a portraitist, common perception is that you hang a white curtain behind the subject if it’s for a Saudi visa or a demat account or a red one for a US. Photographers by and large were in it because it made good business sense, not because they loved it, so when the business dried up they would become prawn farmers or run hotels.

 

If you photographed Bollywood stars and your images appeared in Star Dust or Cine Blitz you were also regarded a lower mortal. Like the prize, if it’s the Nobel or Pulitzer, esteem and recognition would be bestowed on its recipient, in reverse, the other kind of prize gets its recognition by being given to someone of esteem. Here too there are direct parallels with celebrity photography, a sure ticket to becoming recognized yourself. But just compare celebrity photography from Snowdon to Avedon, from Lichfield to Lachapelle with local photographers and what they do with bollywood celebrities. Two way problem, 38 year old bollywood stars want eternally to be portrayed as teenagers and photographers have no visionary or creative way of convincing them otherwise. Big B will always be seen with his white goatee and his black weave. So much for originality both ways. Like the Oscars, an award ceremony to celebrate creativity, all the women in Harry Winston’s and all the men in black tuxedos, yeah right…. The only time Bollywood celebrities were shot uniquely and interestingly was for a funny campaign for a funny organization called Home Trade.com. No one ever knew what home Trade traded in,  and eventually it filed for bankruptcy and some scam was uncovered, but the images were wonderful and a blitz during the dotcom boom/bust days.

 

 

Editorial photography is going through a sea change and is catching up while it drags its feet with its western counterparts. The advent of Vogue in India should rattle things up a bit and status to editorial photography will shift. The prime accused in all of this is the editors who believe that photographers, models, make-up artists and stylists should not be paid even while they are. Irresponsible photographers too were queuing up to do ‘free’ work all with the hope of getting noticed. Net result is a magazine that does 3000 copies and considers itself humping. Finally magazines are realizing the potential market and will probably waste 3000 copies on the print shop floor. The Devil Wears Prada even if fantasy indicates the kind of machine, value and money editors are willing to spend to be at the edge of it all.

 

 

A visit to the bookstores only endorses the fact that while Indian writers in English are gaining status and international recognition, Indi pop, indi dance and indi photography indeed are languishing in some black hole. Part of the problem with Indian photography at least is its subservience to a dominant art culture that invariably is North American or European. Since there is this fashion/advertorial trickle down, the Black Book aesthetic gets promulgated and has been the bed rock of advertising referencing for over 2 decades, replaced only by Archive magazine and Communication Arts. What this meant 15 years ago was an art director showing you a dazzling yellow Lamborghini with an equally well featured blond, long limbed, barely clothed babe stretched across its rapacious chassis and wanting you with your Hasselblad to do the same with a Premier Padmini or an Ambassador and a model who barely brushed her teeth.

 

The other downfall has become synonymous with Anu Mallik, the art of ripping off. At last years exhibit A, a photo show expressly orientated to show original, personal, photographic work, a photographer had spent serious money on large photographic inkjet prints to rip off Sandy Skoglund’s Radio Active Cats shot in the 60s. What he did with digital manipulation was not even a patch on her in-camera, analogue work. Femina covers among others invariably have had verbatim copies of PeTA ads, Aditi Govatrikar covered in cabbage leaves. This is a double whammy; it firstly assumes arrogantly or naively that the public at large is stupid and that they can get away with you thinking how creative they are. Imitation is not the highest form of flattery. The Kingfisher calendars with all the hype associated are me-too, struggling to be like Pirelli, or Sports Illustrated and these are all left in the dirt by Lavazza in terms of creative edge.

 

The lack of originality and commitment are serious defects that manifests itself in contemporary Indian photography, the subjects are all tired, re hashed, recycled, work. The other issue is one of the ‘Indian aesthetic’, this is murky territory, an image is an image and should hold its own regardless of nation, gender, age and being hemophiliac but having said that from Picasso to Hussein to Gaitonde, to Rushdie, Penn, Araki and Arundhati Roy have resourced their environment outside and within with a certain geo, social, political orientation. Indian photography is barely Indian, it’s a kind of slick, accurate, technically correct, reproduction of what is available already. There is practically little or no attempt to discover worlds hitherto unexplored, the semiotics in mythology, of colour, texture, shape, the spirituo-religious rubric and the way light orientates itself in the tropics.

 

The only ones to have done this with some degree of international success are Raghubir Singh, Raghu Rai, Ashwin Mehta, Aswin Gatha and Dyanita Singh. The Ambassador by Raghubir Singh, a book published posthumously is perhaps one of the most evocative explorations of an India at the cusp. It holds out yet as a conceptual, modern classic as is the Ambassador itself.

 

The other serious flaw in the engendering process is a lack of educational facilities. It is astonishing that despite India being the major country in the subcontinent, the only school for photojournalism resides in Dhaka, Bangla Desh. Despite the alleged thriving commercial photography business there are no schools for photography, barring a valiant attempt by Girish Mistry with his Shari Academy. But year after year the graduation exhibition looks so black bookish and dated.

 

 

Photographers who could have promoted other photographers via Magnum or international agencies held on to their territory as did happen with play back singing. What is needed is a Bose Krishnamachari of Photography, someone who is generous and willing to promote others while he comes along for the ride too.

 

There are a few photographers who climb on to the gravy train, and become activist photographers, will use words like diaspora, space, post modern, neo colonial, pre nuptial, to describe their work and dot Indian and red Indian to indicate continental drift. Bad photography gets cloaked under the subterfuge of the‘conceptual’.

 

 

The only gallery devoted to showing photography in Mumbai is the Piramal gallery that, despite being in a wonderfully prestigious location has no vision, is bureaucratic and is a mausoleum. Contrast this with 80 registered galleries devoted to showing photography in New York.

 

Cross-over photography, from advertising to photojournalism to editorial or fine art, few have accomplished in any significant way. Faroukh Chotia and Prabuddha Dasgupta are the only two that are orientated this way. And Swapan Parekh was unique in that he took a kind of journalistic approach to advertising. Most often his images were black and white and art directed but looked candid enough.

 

Large scale assignments in terms of what is euphemistically called the ‘coffee table book’ are most often sponsored titles, rarely will publishers do something because it needs to be done or is beautiful in itself, and it invariably turns out to be vanity press.

 

The only area of large-scale visible photography where there is a match between content and audience is with film hoardings much to the sad demise of the hoarding painter. The only people using the vinyl medium with great effectiveness are hoarding photographers who for the most part remain anonymous. The entire package of layout, typography, and graphic design come together interestingly.

 

Media itself is in a tumultuous state, news papers competing with TV. The main news broadsheets being directed to be more tabloid, every square inch of news print is selling or being sold, rarely is there news for news sake, photos for their own sake, some brand, some image, some commercial agenda, the marketing asses dictating content. Print media is loosing advertising revenue to TV. The government now has to regulate the greedy children with the advertising to news ratios. TV is loosing out to cinema where, in-film advertising is becoming creative in Machiavellian ways to sell you more stuff even if all you were wanting to pay for was to see Mallika Sherawat.

Anyone heard of AM radio? Or SW for that matter, only FM and there too the content that should be reserved for SW is on FM. When Bunty and Bubbly were reading news on NDTV that was the last straw. Paid for segments of the news. It’s all about the cash register. But this in a very obtuse way will work itself out in terms of photographic new age ness. Sadly or pragmatically finally economics will dictate who and what survives photographically. It can be predicted judging by the way the fine art market has grown steadily over the years with artists needing to do commercial assignments of murals in restaurants and residences to finally where in their ateliers they can produce the art they want to or the art that is being sought after, photography as fine art will find its own niche and identity. If photographers sought with commitment and dedication their own unique language allowing all that is around them to leak into their work, they would pass on an atavistic response that can only be the foundation for uniqueness.

 

 

The D word is out. Its raining digital, despite the fact that Photoshop, the first and last resort of photographers the world over, is more than 15 years old, there has not been a sudden or significant jump in creativity. Everyone is playing catch up with the latest technologies and paying awesome amounts of money for digital equipment, the primary focus is on repaying the EMIs. It is like the bad old days revisited, when art directors insisted that you were a photographer worthy of his direction only if you had a large format camera preferably a Sinar sitting on a tripod in your studio, never mind that the client was not going to afford the large format film or scanning. Same now, if you’ve got digital you get the job, never mind that your film camera might actually produce a finer result. It’s the herd, its convenient and its instantaneous. in the past all you needed was a camera and film. now when you travel to get an image you need a retinue of slaves to carry your laptop your humongous camera, its digital back, all sorts of batteries to power that, and guess what, a built in 18 month obsolescence.

 

The photographers who get no attention at all though they constitute a significant part of the business are the wedding and event photographers, these have become formulaic with software manufacturers creating masks and vignettes with Om and Shanti and ‘effects’, all the Noritsu machines in the back lanes are churning out 5×7 prints and powerpoint DVDs of Raju weds Rani – swahaa.

Indeterminate

October 20, 2012

The space between the progressive and regressive, the modern and the ancient are the subjects of Bharat Sikka’s debutant fine art photography show on at the C&L gallery in Colaba. This is an interesting counterpoint to his otherwise well known fashion, commercial photography. There is no doubt that Sikka has a fine eye and technique, his images  here are shot in urban areas where there is large scale development but as most know in this country there is very little finish, conduits, and debris, unpainted new structures and piles of rubble left un cleared all sit around some how becoming the rhinoceros  in the visual ointment.

 

The images are almost without any colour and they are not monochromatic, they come from an unsaturated, smoggy, archipelago that could be a gulag. These are mostly urban landscapes of stadia, power plant sites, fly-overs and movie studios. There are two images that are particularly interesting, most for where the camera has been positioned. There is some precision to the symmetry where parallel lines meet at a vanishing point, forming a triangulation that is beguiling. The other image is shot from the outskirts of a power plant grid, a patch of red earth looks suspiciously, beautifully out of  place. This is not about a decisive moment but a decisive place that is remarkably familiar. There are people but most are unrecognisable, there is life, but just barely, leaving only the vestiges of a lit bulb or an errant street light. A skeletal tree drops onto a playground that seems joyless. 

 

Bharat Sikkas images have been part of a widely travelled show, many of his images are familiar. While one has waited expectantly for a show that would have taken indian photography to another level, a young observer’s comment sort of summarises the exhibition well, underwhelming. Andreas Gursky , Stephen Shore,  Hiroshi Sugimoto and other conceptual fine art photographers like Gregory Crewdson have done this sort of work some time ago. Many indian photographers are exploring this unglamorous urban space but that is telling in its own way.

Is The Space in Between Love and Hate, Indifference?

Banish the viewfinder

July 20, 2010

Prabuddha Das Gupta is probably Indias most versatile photographer and has straddled the dichotomous twain of the commercial/editorial and fine art worlds with ease and authority, creating a precedent where for some odd reason in this country fine-art almost by definition cant show a beautiful woman or a Manish Arora product. In the west, Penn, Avedon, Netwon, Bailey, Araki and Lachapelle have no such compartmentalization, free flowing like iodized salt, from one to the other elastically.

Beginning with his last exhibition in mumbai, ‘The Edge of Faith’ had Das Gupta make a leap of faith himself, plunging into hitherto unchartered territories, abjuring the hip, white cubes of south mumbai, preferring a derelict, decrepit  warehouse in a non fashionable, mill hunky district. The exhibition space had a blown away roof, open to sky, it took its Goan inmates to a new metaphoric level. It created easily, a Goan vibe in mumbai and that was no mean feat considering the monolithic abutment of the grotesque Godrej highrise that blocks out the sun at 4 pm.

The photographs of a sort of sad Goa, where das Gupta spends a lot of time, in themselves were typical in their melancholy. You had to peer through fig trees that had, Angor Wat like grown out of the cracks in the concrete to get a glimpse. Friends were messaging each other to visit the exhibition with detailed google map locations and directions, as the warehouse had only a number on a black gate and no other landmarks around. The magic hour (and how photographers love those) started at 6.30pm where there was just a hint of blue in the sky and the incandescent warmth of very simple lighting made the photographs acquire a new and domestic quality. But more crucial to the show was das Gupta thumbing his nose at hoity toity photographers who make a big deal about humidity and temperature control, diva like requirements more suited to growing exotic orchids than for photos to be exhibited. And in one fell swoop rather than making external demands that your work be respected, the courage and conviction of this move made you respectful. To move off the beaten track is the destiny of an artist, to have the testosterone to show in a place that might not get the ‘foot fall’ is a terrific statement that should empower photographers who are tentative.

Das Gupta’s aesthetic can be traced back to European sensibilities, which is probably why his work looks so at home in Vogue. Jeanloupe Sieff is an obvious influence. The ipso facto abstraction of black and white sometimes in this country looks forced and unnecessary. But most photographers succumb, gallerists love it. It is harder to work with colour meaningfully, and in this country especially, colour has its own semiotics and is meaning-full.

His first book ‘Women’ published in 1996 was again a watershed in depicting nudes in what has become a very Bowdlerized India. But the book even then looked immature and naive, a hurried attempt at getting it to market.

‘Ladakh’ his second book in 2000 showed Das Gupta’s other interests, it can loosely be called a Travel book. The photos are all in black and white again and while it is beautiful, it does not engage you with a new perspective or an insight; and yes it does show wrinkled faces and black polarized sky with contrasty white clouds somewhat clichéistically.

‘Edge of Faith’ 2009, far from a ‘tribute’ to Goa, is an edited vision, a narrow, fashionably dystopic prism at decrepitude and de-generation. Its not how the other half lives necessarily but how some people live anonymously; in quiet desperation away from the tourist noise. The works have mood and ambience and disturbingly you want to return to them.

Das Gupta is best know for his editorial work in fashion magazines, and here is the conundrum. Most fashion magazines are ‘brands’ and like all brands you cant tamper with that image, so if you are going to conform to make your photos fit the brand, can it then be fashion? One suspects that Das Gupta struggles with these issues.

If Das Gupta can be guilty of a borrowed aesthetic the only person who can show him an alternative is Laxmi Menon, his muse. Prabuddha’s best work is when he is photographing Menon who can do no wrong, she is the quintessential, modern, languid, strong, dusky, elegant, indian woman and in photographing her comes a new syntax that is perhaps unique, subject and predicate, viewer and the viewed, banishing the viewfinder.

Fosstering Photography

July 20, 2010

Every photographer in India should embrace the idea that there is now a new gallery in Mumbai that devotes itself to photography, toppling the musty, mofussil and retrograde reputation that the Piramal Gallery might have held for many years.

Matthieu Foss for a few years now has been showcasing indian photography and like a hermit crab has been renting and time sharing space whenever, and wherever it became available.

His swank new, if shiny gallery breathes a sigh of relief in Ballard Estate extending the perimeter of south mumbai galleries in an ever widening orbit.

The gallery opened with photographs (Jan14th-13th Feb) by  Montreal-born Marcus Leatherdale, who lives in India and in one politically insensitive, attitudinal swoop joined the ranks  of magazines like Vogue who launched their Indian edition with Patrick Demarchielier showing the natives how its done. Bravo. Had the photographs of the tribal natives playing their ethnographic sometimes fetishised roles been outstanding the urban natives might have had to hold their heads in neo-colonial shame. Eventually there is good or bad photography, devoid of gender, caste, creed, nationality or economic station.

But let the natives not get ahead of themselves, what they could not do in post independent India, Foss has done with a quiet je ne sais quois.

The second show, Where the City Rests by Shahid Datawala (16Feb-13th Mar) had framed cabinets on the floor looking at spaces used for resting.  At the opening that translated  into where the cities hip rest their cocktail glasses, ironically twisting the idea of Dystopia.

The gallery itself is on Goa street, the narcissistic self portraits and attempted erotica in the current show called Unseen, Unheard, Unexplained by Pat (16th Mar-10Apr) who spends a lot of his time in the place the street is named after might have been better off borrowing from its title. But the upside and there is one, is that Foss is open enough to the idea that you can be anyone without pedigree and an influential art parent to have access to the space should he think you worthy. And that is something most natives need to learn quickly.

If you are a photographer chances are that you have always had the secret desire to eventually have your work out in a large format book. And if you have tried to pursue that logic and send your manuscript off to a publisher you will know exactly the frustration.

Many of my literary friends too who have had their debut novels published by large publishing houses like Penguin are considering self-publishing for their second and third novels. The logic is simple, if a publishing house is going to give you a very large ‘advance’ then its to your distinct advantage to go with a publisher, but if a publisher is going to give you a nominal fee, chances are that they will not promote your book with the vigor and interest that you would like. You will find your book languising, badly displayed with little promotion. If they pay an Arundhati Roy, a Shobhaa De or a Vikram Seth a million dollars and you 500 dollars, guess whom they are going to promote aggressively.

Many of my musician friends are abandoning the route of finding a ‘label’ which  is the equivalent of the publisher in the music business and going via YouTube and FaceBook to get their music out to their audiences.

These are some of the eternal excuses/experiences.

1. That no one at the other end ever even acknowledge receipt of your prized work.

2. After you make numerous phone calls you eventually get to talk (maybe) to the head in charge, who sounds brusque while you sound apologetic, you get to hear the usual, ‘have not seen your manuscript, send it again’; ‘but you know how busy we are, we get hundreds of manuscripts daily’.

3. You re-send and meet the same fate

4. You repeat no 2. and if you are lucky you’ll get the familiar ‘we’ll call  you,  you dont call us’.

5. Six months on you pick up enough courage and you find out that they have lost your manuscript, misplaced  your DVD and other material; ‘shifting office’, no apologies!

6. The scenario has many shades all of which you would think are true to us only in the third world, but here is some solace, it happens everywhere, even among the best, international publishing houses.

7. The days of people being professional and responding, forget the days of lick a stamp and mail; when things could not be easier to reply while you wait on tenterhooks, are OVER, this can add to the frustration.

8. I’ve had one really ‘bright’ publishing head of a large, established publishing house tell me to find a ‘sponsor’. To which my horrified expression must have replied ‘if I’m going to find a sponsor, why the effing hell do I need you? I may as well take sponsor on my back, drink a Daiquiri and do the job myself. Sometimes one wonders whether they even hear what they say, so meaningfully.

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But here is the good news – you can SELF PUBLISH and even make a profit doing a big photo book.

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My experience for its ten paise worth:

There are a few components to getting your book out of your HDD or your archival closet if you shot TPs/Negs in the bad ol days.

1. Pre – Press

2. Print

3. Market

4. Distribute

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I) What pre-press means, is that you have to get  your ‘dummy’ ready for the print shop, this has several shades and nuances. But its no occult art, its science and you can do it by the numbers. I am presuming that if you are a photographer you can handle a computer and even better PhotoShop and In-Deisgn (book design software) if you are a Mac person, or Quark or the equivalent in a PC, this is not a complex operation. However if you are having difficulty, hire a kid with some of these skills and you are free. At this point I will list some good young designers at the bottom, but if you know someone who is looking for freelance work and is good, just add their details in your comments below.

Lets talk first of ‘scanning’ your TPs/Negs, film derivatives. if you only have prints of your work that too can work, but understand that you should work best with the raw material, meaning the first generation of image, either the neg or the TP is best and if your work is all digital then the digital RAW file is your dig neg.

Regardless of what pre-press houses will tell you, please bear my advice and do exactly what I say now.

Ia) Get hi-res, 16 bit scans, this is best done on a drum scanner, leave your desk epson or whatever for the Income Tax documents that you need to scan. For a book  you need clean, crisp and rich scans, 16 bit RGB does this job, many people have scanners, but like anything, how a scanner is used is crucial. All pre-press houses have drum scanners or very high end flat bed scanners that will do the trick, many older scanners convert to CMYK immediately.

Ib) All scanners, like your TV, camera, projector and indeed monitors produce colour via RGB, it is basic to all CCDs, CMOS  and photomultiplier tubes. So be firm and request 16 bit RGB, a minimum of 300dpi (dots per inch) and if you get a file size of around 100+ mb  without conversion from CMYK, raw scans you are doing good.

Ic) Depending on how much money you have for this opertation and whether you want to exhibit large size prints of this work later or during  your book launch, you need to think about this now, so that you avoid having to re-scan and pay more money later. You can scale an image down with less damage to the integrity of the image than the other way around. Dont ever try to scale an image up by more than 20%. If you must, only use Genuine Fractals or some software like that, that will do a good job interpolating.

Id) Pre-Press houses will like to recover costs on their defunct scanners, and quote you ridiculous prices, per mb and stuff, if you are going to do a book with some 100 images, you should pay no more than Rs 300/scan. Understand that you have the bargaining power here, scanning is a dying operation.

Ie) Its best to go to the same print house that will have a pre-press dept to get your scans. I have listed some printers below who will do world class work.

If) Bring your scans to your system, its best to do this operation on a fairly good monitor, a Mac cinema display or if push comes to shove an iMac will work too, clean up your photos, dust, scratches and any other retouching that you need to do, is best done now, work in native 16 bit, it will occupy twice the disk space but leave it that way. All your ‘curves’ and adjustments and layers etc that you do, dont compress your file, leave it with all its layers as a .psd file in 16bit RGB. (I am presuming again that your monitor has some basic calibration, like that you have set your colour preferences in Adobe to adobe RGB (1998), proRGB or sRGB, these have much larger colour gamut (space) than CMYK and offers the printer a larger gamut to play with.

Ig) By now you would have done your layout, with In-Design or Quark or similar. The software makes a package of the images, fonts, colours and that sort of thing that makes the logic of placement of images for printing easy.

Ih) if you are shooting or using digital files, please shoot in RAW which by default is 16bit RGB, set your camera RGB to the same colour pref. on your PS. so if its sRGB on your camera then it should be sRGB on your PS etc and follow the steps above.

Ii) You are done with the image from your end. Now you take it to your printer who has a pre-press dept.

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PRINT PRE-PRESS:

Ij) Sit with your printer and bring up each of the images from your book, your printer now will convert them to CMYK  and 8bit  that best suits the paper you are going to print on. Each and every paper absorbs inks and reflects ink differently, there is something called ‘dot gain’ and SWOP that you need not concern yourself with, but it is crucial for the printer and if they are any of the below mentioned they know what to do with those figures.

You have to look at your images in a ‘controlled light’ environment, generally the office this is done in use 5500k light that most closely resembles daylight. The monitor should be a high quality EIZO/ Lacie type monitor that costs much more than your Cinema Display for good reason. The monitor will show you simulated CMYK that should be close to what you will eventually see ‘proofed’ so trust it and make the best possible colour corrections here, this stage is crucial to getting great print quality.

Ik) Next insist on a ‘laser proof’ also called an Iris proof, this is an inket equivalent of your book, its printed only on one side and the colours are a bit richer than will be your book. You still have  a chance to make corrections in type and in pages, images at this stage without any costs of ‘plates’ yet.

Il) once you approve of the ‘proof’ you are ready to go to the next stage of PRINT.

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2) PRINT:

This is usually an offest job and could be in two types of screens used to get ink on to paper, one is stochastic (FM)and the other is an AM screen, your printer will best decide which one is best for your application.

modern digital printing is CTP, (computer to plate) with no intermediary steps, at this stage plates are made, one for each of the colours C.M.Y.K.

2a) If you are new to the printer and the process, ask for a ‘gang’ proof, this proofs your ‘difficult’ images and text as pages on the actual paper that you have choosen with the same inks that your book will be printed in. This is equivalent to the strip test prints one made in the darkroom and will give you the last and final proof of how your work will show. There is a small incremental cost for the plates made for this process but its well worth doing it to avoid disappointment later.

2b) you can make changes here if warranted, go back to the colour correction on the Eizo monitor for large changes you want made.

2c) When satisfied give the go ahead signal for your job to PRINT.

2d) You should be present when the print rolls off the press, its a heady feeling to see your ‘forms’ emerge crisp and rich from the machines. These days to avoid the setting of the inks which used to take 48 hours, printers can coat the paper ‘on-line’ with an aqueous silk/gloss coat that is ‘baked’ on to the paper, giving you a real, ‘final’ colour within 5 minutes of the print coming off the press, this is advisable for several reasons, its a small incremental cost, well worth the extra money.

2f) You can even here, with the print boss, make subtle changes especially when images run as double spreads or across the ‘gutter’, to make sure the tones are matched. The print boss generally puts the tabs on a densitometer and checks values to see if they are within range.

2g) Your book is printed, it needs to sit for 48 hours before it can be folded, cut, ‘perfect’ bound and stiched and have the cover pasted, before it gets shrink wrapped and delivered to an address you provide.

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3) MARKETING:

3. Try and pre-sell your book, take your dummy or make a presentation along with some hard copies of your photographs and run them via corporates or institutions that match closely your style or content of your book. Financial year ends and beginnings, academic year ends, and festivals are good times for gifts. Pre-selling can save you all kinds of worry and if you do a good job here  you can avoid a distributor and maximise your take home money to recover your large printing over heads, also this will give you the best idea of how many books you should print. If you can pre-sell 500 books, that is before the launch date, you will have recovered your costs if you do a 3000 print run.

You can offer special prices and take orders on 1-5 books, 6-50, 51-100 etc etc. all before the launch date, on the launch date you can increase the cost a bit but keep it below the MRP (max retail price) and a day after  you can sell at 20% lower than the MRP direct.

3a) It is imperative that you do the marketing and PR for your book, no one will do it with more enthusiasm than yourself. it needs to be done. (* check Sandeep Fernandes details below). If you have friends or students who have done a BMM course and are in media houses, then you should be tapping into those sources and scheduling some interviews. You need to create a buzz about your book.

3b) FaceBook is one great way of informing everyone of an event. Get books stores to allow you a ‘reading’. The media loves a celebrity, so muster whomever you can to read from the book and find as many ways to promote your book as possible, there happen to be several these days and many malls and book stores like to have some live and relevant event in their stores. Make sure you display the books prominently. Make some large posters too with the name of the book and your name prominent. This you can do at any digital printing, laser printer outfit, you could even do some vinyls too. SMS, Twitter. YouTube use all of this to your advantage, its all free almost.

3c) If you have an exhibition of your work, that works both ways one promoting the other, its a good idea to have an exhibition of your work simultaneously. But press is very important. Choose your book release at festival times, like the Kala Ghoda festival or the Jaipur literary fair, check dates in advance and work  your schedule backwards.

3d) Y0u need to make some press kits, where you have hi-res (300dpi) images no bigger than 5×7, with an assortment of photos no more than 10 and a bio of yourself along with some text if any from the book, as excerpts. You will also have to allocate some books (10-15) to be given away to the press.

3e) Use bulk SMSs and Twitter to post invitations to your mailing address and request that your friends fwd your mail/message to at least 5 of their friends.

3f) Strategise your publicity, realise  that many magazines have ‘Book Reviews’ you need to check the magazine closing dates and the magazine schedules, eg. weeklys, bi-monthlys etc will all accept inputs and have cut off dates, request those dates that most closely match your ‘launch date’ so that all the publicity peaks at about the same time. TV slots like ‘Just Books’ needs to have at least a month lead time.

3g) Do not give your material to the media too early in eagerness, it will be lost, allocate time to follow up, or hire a junior media student to follow up and take your material back and forth to reviewers. Dont be penny pinching at this stage. Pay for SMSs, taxi charges etc so that everyone feels they are being compensated. It is vital to getting your book noticed and to make it move off the shelves.

3h) Dont be shy about talking about your book, if you dont do it, no one will.

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4. DISTRIBUTION:

4a) This is a tough call, you will need to get your book out to as many book stores as possible. for this you will need a distributor with reach. A distributor typically will take 50-65% of your MRP, so  you need to keep this in mind when pricing your book. I will give  you a rough guide to how you should price your book later. A distributor will sign a contract with you. you can customise this, viz, you may want to give Strand Book stall, in mumbai the books yourself. STrand will take 40% off your MRP, and return 20% to the customer, everyone benefits. You get stung 40% but thats better than what the distributor will take, so you can make a caveat like that in your contract, that the Distributor will service all book stores except the ones you will do directly. Book stores and Distributors take between 2 and 6 months to pay.

Find a Distributor only after you have done your damnedest yourself, that is once  you have marketed and distributed the book before, during and post its launch, dont get a distributor too late either, let him/her ride on some of the publicity that you might have garnered for the book.

I will try and add to a list of Distributors at the bottom,  these are tough business people, you need to be firm and earnest in getting the best possible deal, every percentage point that you negotiate in your own favour is money in your account. There is also the reverse, distributors are notorious in telling you that if they make little on your book, they also have little initiative in pushing it. So its a balance.

You must get all inventory off your premises. Try not to schedule your launch around the monsoon, you dont want your precious books to sit in a dank warehouse.

There is an alternative to printing large quantities by offset, its called Print On Demand (POD), this means you can print one copy of your book and each can be presonalised  too. The method for doing is is called an Indigo print and its printed on an HP what is euphemistically called a digital offset. Its a much more expensive per copy method but you dont have inventory. All the above steps are valid, till the point where you make ‘plates’, with the Indigo the plates are reusable and the paper is sheet fed. Bellow are listed the Indigo POD print shops in Mumbai and around.

You can also get your book on to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Flipkart.com (for india)  and other speciality photo book sites. not figured out the process, am searching, if anyone knows how, please post your comment here. I will post as soon as I know. Its not insurmountable, I hear its quite easy actually, but I need to follow up on this.

Frankfurt book fair happens in the first week of October. Make appointments at least 6 months in advance to get your book a co-edition. They have an on-line presence with a list of all the zillion publishers that are represented.

Many TV channels have a Book Review section, NDTV has Just Books, CNN-IBN and others too, send in  your synopsis and make it seem like your book is the next big thing. Humour works.

7/may/10 Just met my distributor in Delhi, and found that he has not pushed the book. So dont assume that once you have a distributor all is well. You have to call (preferably, and face perhaps, the same ignominies)  periodically and ‘remind’ your distributor that he has your book and that you are ‘monitoring’ its presence or absence in book stores. Dont assume that people other than yourself are doing the work they say they will do.The fact is that they DONT. But the catch is not to get frustrated by this, just do what you have to do and press on regardless.

Distributors will tell you the most cliché things, like books on Monuments of India, crafts of india, textiles of india, religions of india, festivals of india and sex, sells. YOu dont need to be a rocket scientist to know that, just visit any book store and see the plethora of boring, India, books out there. You have to have an absurd (and if you need courage, read Camus) belief in yourself and press on when all tell you that you are writing a book that is non typical. But that is the point isn’t it? The best thing about self pub is that you can do exactly what you please, not be so market orientated. Established publishers/distributors have basically only market considerations. They work like ‘Insurance’ agencies, on the law of averages.

There is a new Amazon type service called Flipkart.com for on-line book distribution now especially for india, I am about to investigate this. Watch this space.

Distributors dont single you out for shoddy service, even Jeffrey Archer who sells in millions calls up his distributor/publisher regularly to ‘monitor’ them.

ok have now investigated FlipKart.com and it WORKS, they now have our book on their inventory. http://www.flipkart.com/itinerants-charmayne-de-souza-david-book-8190821806

they are easily contactable via their comprehensive  website, will keep 5-10 books with them and you can negotiate a commission with them  that is mutually comfortable. Payments are made on a monthly basis as and when they sell.

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Getting a quote:

To get an accurate quote from a printer you will need to specify some details

1. size of your book, generally 9.5×11 inches is about the proportionate division of the paper size. Ask your printer what size is the most economical that is closest to the size of the book you envisaged. Dont do odd sizes, that involve paper wastage, a large portion of your budget is consumed by paper, so keep that part of the equation maximised.

2. No. of pages

3. Colour or black and white, you can do 4 colour black and white for a rich tonality.

4. End papers, these are generally thicker papers, like card, that is stuck to the covers for strength.

5. Hard or soft bound

6. Dust jacket

7. Quality of paper, you can choose from various swatches of paper, and can even get a sample photo of yours printed on a few different papers for you make  up your mind. paper is measured in gsm (grams per square millimeter). Generally for a lush book 160-175gsm works well

8. Quantity /Number. Print run, anything smaller than 1000 copies you might want to consider POD, but offset comes into its own with larger quantities the costs per unit come down drastically. but simultaneously your inventory also gets considerable. Think of where and how you are going to stock those books. and if you life in an apartment whether the slab can take the weight.

9. Printers can do special things like metal stamp foiling, on-line aqueous silk/gloss coatings, die cuts, special folds, special colours like gold, spot UV lamination etc. each of these is an additional cost.

10. Scanning

11. Digital pre-press

12.  Digital proof

13. Gang proof.

14. Make sure estimates are all with duties specified, CIF (cost, insurance freight), if you want various quantities shipped to different locations you need to specify that here.

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You also need an ISBN,  this is a unique number for your book that can be used as its identity and tracked anywhere in the world. It is free and you can get it from this address (shall update this soon, or you can google it and get it from Delhi, the process takes about a month, so leave  yourself that much time, if you can get someone in Delhi to do it, it will take no more than 2 weeks, try and get a bar code with it, you will get 10 serial numbers, so you can technically do 10 books after this without re applying).

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Final Cost of your book:

Eg. if your book costs Rs 1000/- all inclusive, that is all physical costs that you have bills for, excluding your costs as a photographer, then your MRP should be roughly Rs 2500-Rs3000

Literature, prose, poems are much cheaper to print, you can only do a lavish cover at the printers listed below, these printers specialise in colour reproduction, dont use them for printing text, most any printer can do this.

I will shortly publish here on the blog, a short tut on fonts and design, all elements in a book are there by design and intention, all leading to an end product that is seductive and the best vehicle for you to claim your existence. So dont use defaults.

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For PR and getting media attention here is Sandeep Fernandes, he did a remarkable job for our book Itinerants and the book on St. Xavier’s college -140 years.

* Sandeep Fernandes : 9819266551, sandeepfernandes18@hotmail.com

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Print shops:

Pragati – Hyderabad. Contact person: chandresh@pragati.com, 9821114114

Reproscan – pre-press. mumbai, Pankaj Mehta98210-31209, Ketan Mehta accountsrepro@gmail.com

Jak Printers –  Kushru, “JAK Printers Pvt.Ltd. Business Development” <jakprint@vsnl.com>

SilverPoint, 493-9908/9/10/24, silverpoint@vsnl.com

Comart – Pre-Press, 9892237339 Freddie

Jasra – Pre Press, Ravi Jasra, ravi@jasras.com, gyan@jasra.com

There are great printers in Delhi too, but I have no personal experience of them.

Ranbir Nerwal 9810324069, ranbir.nerwal@gmail.com  will do great, clean scans and is a superlative archival exhibition quality printer based in Delhi

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POD:

ZoomIn- Sunny, sunny@zoomin.com, 9967546468, they print mugs and tea shirts and other merchandising too should you need it.

Reproscan – pre-press. mumbai, Pankaj Mehta98210-31209, Ketan Mehta accountsrepro@gmail.com, they do an excellent job on a variety of surfaces.

Mazda 2309-7392 / 6

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Distributors:

Variety Books, Om Arora, 09810016868, varietybookdepot@rediffmail.com, 011-24602032

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Time line:

presuming you have your book design ready, this is the sort of time you will need to print and receive your book.

Scanning, Pre-Press: 10 days

Proofing : 2 days

Printing approx. 200 pages (50 forms, 4 pages to 1 form) 3 days

Finishing (folding, cutting, stitching, binding, packing) 15 days.

Shipping, presuming you will go to Pragati in Hyderabad, 2 days.

Keep aside a month for your press and printing. It can be done in less time, but dont hurry your project, give yourself enough elbow room.

If you think you may need another print edition soon, make sure you tell the Printer to save and secure  your plates, you can save a considerable cost the next time. Most printers by default will keep the plates for a month, then they recycle them. It is also not advisable to keep  your plates for too long as they do deteriorate.

In any event, all your digital data, can be/should be ‘backed up’ at least on two different media, DVDs are known to get corrupted, so back up on a HDD as well.

Printers store your print profiles too, save this, it can save you time and money later on.

There you are done, if you need any more help, comment here and I’ll see how to point you in the right direction.

There is no better feeling than getting your book out.

Now with the iPad and Kindle and a slew of virtual book readers going to flood our space, publishing your book has never looked easier and affordable. Copyright issues still plague the publishing world, but they will be sorted out, soon enough.

Movie studios and Publishers like music labels had better watch out, the conventional model of publishing is/will dry up, when last did you go to a music store to buy a CD? Its not long before an ITunes type of iBook, or iTitle or iPub appears. Its around the corner, be there on the upswing. The writing is on the wall.

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There are tax benefits to being an author, and a publisher, Books are not taxed. Once I have collated all the exact info from the Tax Guide, with article no. etc. or if someone is an expert and would want to add, this is your place and chance to do that. But the good news is that books are given special consideration since Pandit Nehru’s time.

other related articles:     http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/true-life/writer-blocked?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+openthemagazine/essays+(Essays)&utm_content=Google+Reader

Bombay – Mumbai

March 30, 2010

Picture Bombay – Landmarks of a New Generation is probably the only lyrical and honest photographic depiction of this city, it was part of an international effort by the Getty Conservation Institute in LA to get young people between the ages of twelve and eighteen to define and articulate visually and textually what was important, beautiful, significant, repugnant, worth preserving and relevant to them. Half way while printing the catalogue Bombay changed to Mumbai and Picture Mumbai then became probably the first documentary of the changing facade and politics of this city. Not since the iconic Family of Man was photography celebrated so acutely. The then Prince of Wales Museum saw 4000 people engage with it daily for three months. Despite Bollywoods omnipresence, the city has never been depicted with any realness. Even as background it has remained another Nitin Desai set.


The process of Picture Mumbai was probably more significant than its superb outcome, thousands of young people representing as many diversified backgrounds as possible from across the city were interviewed, the common factor that selected them was their eagerness to express themselves alternatively.  In that microcosm of diversity with all its ensuing pulls of  age, caste, creed, economic station, and gender was a critical commonality, a desire not to compete with others, rather, with themselves. The twelve year old and youngest, turned out to be the most chivalrous and the protector of the group, confirming a  Richard Avedon sentiment that we do not lead chronological lives.

While migration continues to be the hottest debate around, we all conveniently forget that each and everyone of us on the planet is a product of a migration and some or other religious conversion. All our ancestors black, white, brown, blond or blue eyed, a mere two thousand generations ago probably smoked ganja together on the plains of Africa. Race is non existent, its all a figment of a propaganda and some artificial construct just as borders are.

(the human genome project : http://www.tutorvista.com/ks/human-genome-project-begins)(unfortunately the YouTube video has been taken off the net)

But these divides are becoming sharper and more polarised. Where you photograph, whom you photograph, who is photographing, are turning locations into paranoid districts. There is a prickly thin skinedness now that gives almost anyone to right to ask you whether you have ‘permission’, even if you are in a public space in broad daylight, photographing the alleged innocuous. Being patient and coming up with long winded explanations for things that should not need explaining can be frustrating and a huge waste of time. Everyone feels they have the right to whisk  you off to the police station. It is merciful when sometimes the police show boredom and fatigue.

Its all the more interesting as just about everyone has a camera embedded in their cell phones. When you can google map a car registration plate via satellite, photographing on Marine drive with a tripod becomes a municipal, traffic and police issue. Everything is a ‘sensitive’ area.

The only creature that stands up to all the political insensitivity ironically has a soft backbone, it lurks off our coasts and is delicious crumb fried. The Bombay Duck not mombil continues to be our quirky, indigenous, delectable mascot chased down by Bombay Gin you are likely to retain an original flavour of the city.